Bolognese meat sauce

Bolognese meat sauce, or Ragu as the Bolognese call this sauce, is one of the staples of Italian cuisine. This is one of our favourite sauces at Wickedfood Cooking School. In her book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, Marcella Hazan recommends that one should try and use minced beef chuck, and for an even better flavour replace 1/3 of the beef with minced pork shoulder. There are 3 important points to remember when making a Bolognese sauce.

  • The meat must be sautéed just barely long enough to lose its raw colour. It must not brown or it will lose delicacy.
  • It must be cooked in milk before the tomatoes are added. This keeps the meat creamier and sweeter tasting.
  • It must cook at the merest simmer for a long, long time. The minimum is 11/2 hours, 5 is better.

Serve with pasta, steamed potatoes, mashed potatoes, lasagne, or as a cottage pie filling. The sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen. Reheat and simmer for about 15 minutes before using.


3T grapeseed oil

3T (45g) butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

500g minced beef (use chuck if possible, the marbling in the meat adds to the flavour)

1/2 cup (125ml) milk

1 cup (250ml) dry white wine

Pinch nutmeg

1 tin tomatoes, roughly chopped


  1. In a heavy pot or cast-iron casserole, the deepest one you have, melt the butter with the oil (oil prevents butter from burning). Fry the onion briefly over medium heat, until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the minced beef, breaking into crumbs in the pot with a fork. Stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw, red colour.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium, add the milk and the nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir frequently.
  4. Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated.
  5. Add the tomatoes, salt to taste and stir thoroughly. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down until the sauce cooks at the gentlest simmer, just an occasional bubble. Cook, covered, for a minimum of 31/2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and check salt. (If you cannot keep an eye on the sauce for such a long stretch, you can turn off the heat and resume cooking it later on. But do finish cooking it on one day).

Serves 4 to 6, but make double quantities as the sauce freezes well.

Wickedfood Cooking School runs cooking classes throughout the year at its purpose-built Johannesburg cooking studio. Cookery classes are run in the mornings and evenings 7 days a week (subject to a minimum of 12 people). The venue is also popular for corporate events and private functions – teambuilding cooking classes, birthdays, kitchen teas, and dinner parties with a difference. Our cooking lessons are hands-on, where every person gets to participate in the preparation of the dishes. They are also a lot of fun where you not only learn new skills, but get to meet people with similar interests. For corporate groups and team building cooking classes these events are a novel way of creating staff interaction or entertaining clients.